Expert Articles

Managing Expectations for a Parent-Child Trip

Author: Dr. Sandra Tsang
Associate Professor, Department of Social Work and Social Administration

To celebrate Billy’s enrolment in kindergarten, Mr. and Mrs. Au took him on a 5-day tour, with an additional 2 days for independent travel and shopping.

Billy was thrilled during his first airplane trip. The hotel room had a large bed that served as a jumping and bouncing toy. The room door was like a magic door that, when closed, would miraculously tidy up the room upon their return. The cheerful tour guide accompanied them every day, ensuring they had fun and ate without worries. He even let Billy ride on his shoulders, instantly becoming Billy’s newest idol, making him happy and at ease.

Unfortunately, after the 5-day tour ended, Billy bid farewell to the tour guide and fellow travelers with tears, staying behind to travel freely with his parents. Those two days, however, made Billy feel anxious and restless. The room was much simpler; the tour guide who protected everyone was gone; the little playmates from the tour were nowhere to be found; and his parents, unfamiliar with the location, often got lost and had to communicate with the locals through drawings and gestures due to the language barrier. Billy cried and wanted to go home with the tour guide, but his parents scolded him for being disobedient and throwing tantrums. The family endured the upgraded trip with a heavy heart.

Parents have the desire to expose their children to various experiences and encourage them to learn. Teaching children to read and recognize words at a young age is about equipping them with the ability to learn from reading. Taking children on trips helps them learn from their experiences, leaving a deeper impression. The experience of Billy’s family reminds parents to have a better grasp of their child’s development and abilities, informing them of the itinerary and changes in a way that the child can understand. It is important to carefully consider the child’s mindset, allowing them to be mentally prepared, in order to use independent travel to strengthen family unity and the child’s abilities. In Billy’s case, he quickly became a loyal fan of the tour guide. Saying goodbye suddenly in an unfamiliar place, coupled with his parents’ behaviour that didn’t make him feel safe, naturally led to an emotional reaction. Considering that Billy is only 3 years old and it was his first time traveling far away by plane, a 5-day itinerary was already suitable. With the pre-trip explanations and the review of photos and video clips after the trip, it was already enriching enough, and there was no need to add the complexities of independent travel!

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Managing Expectations for a Parent-Child Trip